Easedale Round

Directions:

  • Leave the Traveller’s Rest, replete with a fine breakfast.
  • Take care crossing the busy A591, especially if there are 12 in the party.
  • Pass through the gate (signpost).
  • Follow the edge of the field….

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  • …to the stepping-stones across Tongue Gill.

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Hang on though – this won’t do, how did they get to be in the Traveller’s Rest in the first place?

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

Begin again:

Directions:

  • Enrol at Manchester University in the mid-eighties.
  • Join the Hiking Club.
  • Go hiking, drink beer, spend weekends in draughty hostels in Snowdonia or the Lakes, Christmas and Easter holidays in draughty hostels in Scotland, summer weekends and weeks back-packing in various locales.
  • Find yourself, somehow a member of the Hiking Club committee.
  • Organise hiking trips, weekends in draughty hostels…etc.
  • When life catches up with you and you have to get a job, carry on hiking, drinking beer, spending weekends in draughty hostels etc – with the same people.
  • Push the boat out: try a few trips to the Alps – with the same people.
  • Twenty something years pass.

You may find yourself in another part of the world
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife

  • But still occasionally hiking, drinking beer etc…with those same people.

Whilst we still love draughty hostels, these days we occasionally stretch to something more up-market, like the Traveller’s Rest near Grasmere. An awful forecast for the Saturday had been amended at the last moment to something much more promising, which is how we came to be at the stepping stones across Tongue Gill…

Further Directions:

  • Cross the humpback bridge over the River Rothay.
  • Follow a minor lane and then a track past the (not draughty at all) former YHA, now independent, Hostel at Thorny How.
  • Resist the temptation of the white ribbon of Sourmilk Gill and take the track by Far Easedale Gill…

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  • Turn left over the footbridge.

Hold it fellas. That don’t move me. Let’s get real, real gone for a change.

No, I haven’t taken leave of my senses – well, I may have – but the thing is, at some point during this walk, maybe whilst we were climbing up towards Tarn Crag, stopping frequently to admire the views unfolding behind…

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At some point during this walk, Andy and I were discussing the gentle art of blogging about walking, and the potential pitfall of the ‘we climbed over the stile, followed the hedgerow to the gate, stopped to eat a ham and mustard butty and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, stepped in a cowpat,…’ blow-by-blow description of a day in the life of a mid-life rambler.

Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head

So, enough of the mundane details, and the personal history – what was truly memorable about the day?

Well….the light.

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Tarn Crag (probably a mundane detail that….hmmm).

The company was great. The white-bait in chilli batter, and baked sea bream in the pub which rounded off the day was pretty special.

I always relish an encounter with wildlife and this is a good area for ravens, and also for red deer….

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But it was the quality and changing nature of the low-angled light which really sticks in my mind. After we came home from our weekend away, I found this, which seems apposite:

Today is one of those excellent January partly cloudies in which light chooses an unexpected part of the landscape to trick out in gilt, and then shadow sweeps it away. You know you are alive. You take huge steps, trying to feel the planet’s roundness arc between your feet.

Anne Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

The day had begun remarkably mild, in fact I was down to just a t-shirt for a while early-on, but the temperature plummeted and soon hail and snow showers were tracking through, rucksacks were raided for hats, gloves and extra layers.

The showers contrived to mostly pass us by, however, and the changeable weather just added to the glory of it all.

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All of the usual stuff happened – stories were revisited, news was caught up on, butties were scoffed, the world was set to rights, futile attempts were made to outflank boggy bits – but all the while the sweeping shadows and slanting light, the veiling and unveiling clouds and showers were putting on a fantastic display.

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Now, where did I leave you? Oh yes – from Tarn Crag we picked a way through the rugged, knuckled slopes up to Codale Head.

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TBH near Codale Head*.

Sergeant Man 

Sergeant Man from Codale Head.

And then skirted a boggy hollow to the rather busy pimple of Sergeant Man.

Stickle Tarn and Pavey Ark 

As we wandered down the long ridge which flanks Langdale the light show continued. From Blea Rigg we watched the sunlight coming over the dark shoulders of the Pikes slowly disappearing from the surface of Stickle Tarn.

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As the sun began to sink to the south-west, with snow or hail in the intervening air, we saw the valleys of the Coniston Fells fill with warm shafts of light.

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I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and even as I photographed the strange orange glow in the sky, I was sure that the photos wouldn’t do it justice. They don’t.

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Behind us, the knolls and hollows of the ridge were bathed in a golden light, topped off with a short but intense rainbow.

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I know beauty and I know a good thing when I see it

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Off course – there was a price to pay for all of this splendour. As we’d packed the car the evening before, TBH had said, “Don’t forget your head-torch. We’ll probably be finishing in the dark. You know what your lot are like.” (Of course, these are TBH’s friends too, the real implication here was that it would be my fault if and when we finished in the dark.) Anyway, it was a fair point: we did finish in the dark. Fortunately, I’d packed my head-torch, thanks to her timely reminder. So had TBH – in her handbag, which was where it still was as we made a long, steepish and very boggy descent back to the valley.

I’m not sure that I ever took huge steps and I assuredly don’t now. I don’t know that I could claim to have felt the planet’s roundness arc between my feet. But I knew that I was alive, and glad of it, and that will do for now.

————————————————————————————————————————————

Envious of Andy’s glorious slideshows, I’ve had another stab at one myself. Something is amiss, the pictures are not particularly sharp, but it took me awhile to put it together, so here it is anyway:

There’s a flickr slideshow here with even more photos. If you played the video, but watched that slideshow in another tab, you’d get sharper images with sounds too.

Andy’s account of the day, and his far superior slideshow, are here.

One of the principle impressions Andy seems to have been left with, was just how wet it was underfoot and how cold and wet his feet were. Despite plunging through no end of bog, especially near the end of the day in the dark, I finished with dry feet, which is almost unheard of. Marvellous. More of why that was anon.

*TBH has been peering over my shoulder as I write and reports the following conversation from Codale Head:

“Did you take a photo?”

“Yes”

“But I wasn’t smiling.”

“That’s okay – I wanted a figure in the foreground.”

Apparently, this answer lacks the proper charm and tact a considerate husband would muster. Personally, it just seems to me that I can’t win – TBH is always telling me that I should strive to have more people in my photos, so I take a photo with a person in it…..

And finally, another way in which I’ve decided to shake things up: there are quotes from four songs (not really lyrics in one case) scattered through the post. Can you name the tunes and the artists? Answers on a postcard please…or maybe in a comment. No prizes on offer, but no end of points available pop-pickers.

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Easedale Round

Autumn Colour – Eaves Wood and Haweswater

Autumn Colour I

The post title almost says it all – yet another weekend of stunning autumn weather. Spent the first half of it stuck inside at work. (My own fault: overtime pay is almost unheard of in my line of work, and when it was offered, back in the summer, I reckoned on giving up a drear, damp day for my shilling.)

Fortunately, the Sunday was another corker.

Autumn Colour II 

Leaf Litter 

The path to the Circle O'Beeches 

The autumn colour has been superb this year, and I’d vowed that I would only take photos that captured the over-all effect, and, for once, not grub around in the leaf litter, taking close-ups of sparkly leaves catching the light.

Back-lit leaf I 

It’s an unshakable resolve that I have. A will of iron.

Back-lit leaf II 

Back-lit leaf III 

Back-lit leaf IV 

Back-lit leaf V 

Trees reflected upside down in water-droplets….

Spindle berry with droplet 

…didn’t take any of those either, after-all, I’ve already posted innumerable photos of that sort.

By Haweswater, I watched a bizarre relay – first a jay fussily coasting through a stand of trees like a tramp steamer calling in at every port/branch, then a wood-pecker, apparently disturbed by the jay, sky-writing a low-amplitude sine curve over the field, coming to land in a dead tree and, in its turn, putting up a wind-hover, a striped female, which glided away to a new perch by the water’s edge.

Haweswater 

Back-lit leaf VI 

Back-lit leaf VII 

 “….counter, original, spare, strange…”

Back-lit leaf VII 

Back-lit leaves I 

Autumn Colour III 

Back-lit leaf VIII 

Reflected leaves in water 

Reflected leaves in water II 

Dew-drop web 

Back-lit leaves II

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

Autumn Colour – Eaves Wood and Haweswater

Leighton Moss and the Knott Again

Mallard Flotilla

A couple of weeks back – another oasis weekend of calm, clear and bright skies, a break from work, a modicum of fresh air. Up early, I headed down to Leighton Moss and spent a happy hour watching ducks – shovelers with their cartoonish, over-sized beaks, tiny colourful teal, a single merganser confusing me by not diving as I would expect, but swimming with its long neck and beak stretched across the surface of the water, in an seemingly contorted fashion.

A flotilla of mallards sailed across in front of the hide and, as they approached the reeds on the far side, provoked an unholy row, like the plaintive whining of a dog to my ears, but a Proper Birder informed me that the ‘pig-grunting’ was from a pair of water rails in the reed edge. I’d missed seeing them.

Trees in the water 

Later, whilst I walked a little further -  round to lower hide – I couldn’t miss the trees and the deep blue sky caught in the placid surface of a stream, or the golden leaves against the sky above…

Leaves and blue sky 

From Lower Hide, I didn’t miss the pair of bearded tits which flew along the edge of the reed bed in font of the hide, briefly alighted on reed stems right below my window, and then flew across in front of the hide to disappear into more reeds. Had I not had a good view of beaded tits just a few weeks ago, I don’t think I would have recognised them on this occasion, but their soft-colours, long tails and portly figures gave them away.

Leaf 

In the afternoon another small window of opportunity opened and I played truant for an hour to head up Arnside Knott, knowing that the air would be clear, the views would be sharp, and that the Lakeland Fells would be dusted with snow….

Snow-capped lakeland hills from Arnside Knott 

The views were spectacular.

Whitbarrow scar and Eastern Fells 

Western Fells 

What’s more there were ravens in the tree-tops on the steep southern flank of the hill.

Hazel leaf 

If the weekends keep on throwing-up these breaks with the quotidian, I may even learn to like November.

Looking South to the Bowland Fells

Perhaps.

Leighton Moss and the Knott Again

Mallerstang Edge – A Winter Walk

Garsdale Station

The Friday at the end of half-term, barely into November. CJ and I had agreed to meet at Kirkby Stephen station, from where we caught a slightly late-running train for the next stop at Garsdale Head. The forecast hadn’t been great and, earlier, I’d left home in a fierce hail-storm. Still, I was quite surprised to arrive at Garsdale Station to find it white over.

I read somewhere that this is the highest railway line in Britain. It isn’t – the line over Rannoch Moor, for one, is higher. But like much of the Settle-Carlisle line, it is impressive.

We slithered down the road in a mess of slush and gushing melt-water and then picked-up a path cutting over the shoulder of Garsdale Low Moor.

Mallerstang Map 1

Map the first.

A barn

T’was very damp underfoot and my feet, in trail shoes as ever, were soon sodden.

Dandrymire Viaduct

Beyond Dandrymire Viaduct a farmer cheerily directed us onto the path we wanted. “But it’s hellish boggy down there,” he warned. Something of an understatement. A bridge took us over the infant River Ure. I had intended to follow the network of paths which head up the valley, but given the condition of the ground decided that we would be better to climb to the High Way.

What a good decision. This old route is apparently a Roman Road but is particularly associated in my mind with Lady Anne Clifford who often came this way with a huge entourage, when travelling between her various properties between Skipton and Penrith in the Seventeenth Century.

CJ arrives at High Dyke

High Dyke.

The High Way and Wildboar Fell

Today the path offered pleasant, firm, dry walking with fantastic views of Wild Boar Fell.

High Hall

High Hall.

When we reached Hellgill Bridge we had a decision to make: we could stick with relatively low level paths and follow The River Eden back to Kirkby Stephen, or we could head up on to Mallerstang Edges. To date the weather had been moderate – the odd short-lived hail shower – but nothing too drastic. On occasion the sun had even made fleeting appearances. So we chose the high-level option.

Mallerstang Map 2

I’d envisaged following the gill fairly closely. In the event, we found a thin trod which followed the course of the gill but from some height above. Once we were sufficiently committed to our high route to not want to turn back if the weather turned –  the weather turned. A great grey cloak of cloud funnelled up the valley behind us and soon enough we were enveloped in mist and wind-whipped rain.

Above Hell Gill approaching the Edge

Sadly, there’s a gap in my photographic record of our walk here. We did get some views of the rocky edges, including one waterfall which was spectacularly spouting skyward as it tipped over the crags, but, whilst I’ve often vowed from the comfort of our study to try taking some photos in inclement conditions, in the event I found my enthusiasm was washed away in the deluge.

Away from the edge, we stumbled upon a pile of stones, which I suspect marked Gregory Chapel, one of the tops on this route, and stopped briefly to chomp on the pork and apple pie which I’d bought, appropriately enough, in the deli in one of the former Chapels in Kirkby. I almost immediately found myself feeling bitterly cold and so we were soon on the move again.

A little down and up and down again and the high point of the walk, High Seat, was behind us before we’d barely realised. Fortunately, the descent from this point brought a little better visibility and some let-up in the weather. We cut across the moorland to the edge again at High Brae. That left us more exposed to the wind, but also below the cloud with some views across the Eden Valley. Somehow the walking felt much easier with a view and from here it was a pleasant stroll along to High Pike.

Mallerstang Map 3

We began to descend more rapidly here and dropped to a shelf where there were tall cairns and this very neat and tidy sheepfold, looking recently repaired.

Trim sheepfold

I assumed that this must be something to do with Mr. Goldsworthy and his sheepfold project but I can’t find any reference on the internet to support that theory.

Looking back towards Wildboar Fell

Looking back to Wild Boar Fell.

A view (of sorts) over the Eden Valley

Over the Eden Valley.

We’d still a fair way to go – down over Great Bell, through the village of Nateby, over the Eden and back to the railway station, but it was almost all of it downhill and the weather now seemed to have settled, although it remained fairly gloomy.

Mallerstang Map 4

A fine leg-stretcher.

Mallerstang Edge – A Winter Walk

Nobody Loses All The Time*

Time – for walking, photography, birding, blogging – is at a premium at the moment.

Still, I am occasionally finding moments to ‘stand and stare’. Perhaps at my favourite Leighton Moss view for instance…

Leighton Moss View 

Or at the way the light catches the leaves in Eaves Wood…

Sunshine in Eaves Wood 

…or at the way the kids delight in tree climbing etc….

B climbs a dead tree, Eaves Wood 

We’ve have a fair few clear, bright, autumn days, but they haven’t always coincided with those days which have been available for walks.

Autumn Sunshine 

In half-term for instance, TBH and I had a day to ourselves and went back to the Eden valley to repeat the walk we did last year with the kids around Addingham Church, Long Meg and her daughters, Little Salkeld Watermill and Lacy’s Caves. A very fine walk it is too, but the day was dull, overcast and damp.

Eden side toadstools 

The fungi seemed to be relishing the conditions however.

Legions of earthballs

*Yet another post title nicked from e.e.cummings. I always loved the breathless black humour of this poem, with its grisly punchline. Poor old Uncle Sol.

Nobody Loses All The Time*

An Otter, Bearded Tits and a Sunny Weekend

Causeway Robin

We’ve had some pretty wet weather this autumn, but the weekends have often coincided with sunny spells. Back in early October we had just such a weekend. I didn’t head off for a long walk at any point, but instead I was out several times, in various company, for a number of short walks, which, taken together, added up to a very memorable weekend.

My friend and colleague the Proper Birder had alerted me to the fact that otters and bearded tits had both recently been spotted from the public footpath across Leighton Moss, so on the Saturday morning I took A and B for a stroll there. We discovered that the causeway path was flooded, and without wellies, had to curtail our walk rather sooner than anticipated. We did converse with a friendly robin however, and admired a particularly large inkcap.

Inkcap 

That afternoon I was operating a Dad’s Taxi Service, dropping A with some friends for a sleepover. Our friends live in a wonderful spot at the head of the Lyth valley. The sun was shining and butterflies were fluttering around their garden. We decided to take a stroll, going ‘off-piste’ and taking a direct route up onto Lord’s Lot. Perhaps not one of the Lake District’s biggest or most frequented hills, but a cracking viewpoint all the same.

Bouldering 

We stopped a little short of the top on a gratifyingly rocky little knoll…

A rocky knoll 

…with expansive views of Scout Scar, and the  Lyth Valley…

The Lyth Valley 

…and also a view across the actual summit to some more famous and recognisable Lakeland fells…

Langdale Pikes seen across Lord's Lot 

On the way home I stopped off to buy myself some wellies so that early the next morning B and I could take a pre-breakfast trip back to Leighton Moss…

Early morning preening 

We settled down in the public hide, watched a late marsh harrier gliding over the reed beds, and then B tugged excitedly on my sleeve, “Did you see it Dad? The otter?”

I didn’t. It was right in front of the hide apparently. I managed to miss it the next time too. But then I was looking in the right direction when something large and sleek fluidly cleared the surface and then duck-dived beneath it again. It was a very fleeting glimpse. “Maybe it was a fish,” I suggested. “Bit big for a fish,” B snorted derisively.

When we saw it again it was heading away from us. Then it swam across the back of the mere, either close enough to the surface for us to follow its wake, or with its head above water….

An otter! 

Not a great picture of an otter I know, but I don’t really care, I’ve been waiting to see the local otters for years. Magic.

By the grit trays there was a fair collection of Very Serious Men and their Extremely Expensive Optical Equipment. No bearded tits though.

Proper birders 

Home for breakfast, B and I found that TBH and S had not, as we’d thought, been asleep when we left, but had heard us set-off and were a bit miffed to have been left behind. We mollified them with a promise of an immediate return to the Moss, just as soon as we polished off our fry-up.

Here’s S in his bird-watching outfit…

S 

You can see that he’s well wrapped up – it wasn’t as warm as the day before had been. Never-the-less, butterflies were out sunning themselves again….

Red Admiral 

Comma 

Back by the grit trays, S wasn’t intimidated by the Serious Birders penis substitutes expensive tackle*, he pushed right-in to get a peek at….

S takes on the proper birders 

…the bearded tits…

Pair of bearded tits 

TBH was disappointed that the ‘beards’ weren’t full-on flowing ZZ-Top style thatch. Very lovely birds though, and something else I’ve waited many years to see. Switching over from a summer diet of insects, the tits are picking up grit which will help them to digest the hard seeds which they eat in the winter months.

Guelder Rose leaf 

The boys….

Taking a rest 

…were very taken with the flooded paths and so we wandered a little farther, past the public hide and round to lower hide were we watched a heron fishing right in front of the hide.

Bramble leaves 

Peeling, back-lit birch bark 

Flooded paths 

The paths were clearly already beginning to drain, but the water was still quite deep in places…

Even more flooded paths 

Tiny clouds 

Joy of sticks 

 

New boots and... 

I was chuffed with my new boots, even if they are green.

As we wended our way back to the car, we were treated to some quite close views of a circling buzzard.

Leighton Moss Buzzard I 

A buzzard at Leighton Moss? That would be a Leighton Buzzard then? (Sorry)

Leighton Moss Buzzard II 

Preening swan

*Yes, yes – I have camera envy.

An Otter, Bearded Tits and a Sunny Weekend